CBA Hosts Fifth Annual Diversity & Inclusion Summit

Written Monday, October 26, 2020

On Wednesday, October 21, more than 125 people attended the CBA’s fifth annual Diversity & Inclusion Summit: The Collaborative Blueprint. The interactive and engaging virtual Summit explored retention in legal organizations, with a specific focus on understanding the factors that lead diverse attorneys to leave their organizations and the actions organizations can take to not only retain diverse attorneys, but create an environment for them to grow and succeed. 

Neeta M. Vatti, co-chair of the CBA’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, began the Summit by explaining the event’s significance for not only the Connecticut legal community, but diversity and inclusion work in general. She shared her personal story of coming to the United States with her family, traveling through multiple countries to finally reach the US. Even as a child, she understood that diversity and inclusion issues would remain important for how she navigated life.  

The first presentation was by CBA president-elect and Diversity & Inclusion Committee co-chair, Cecil J. Thomas. Similar to years past, President-elect Thomas presented the data from the The Connecticut Legal Community’s Diversity & Inclusion Pledge & Plan Signatories, which showed an increase in diversity in signatory organizations. Though there is still progress to be made in the hiring and retention of diverse associates, President-elect Thomas noted that the pandemic had changed the course of many firms’ diversity and inclusion efforts. Therefore, the signatories would revisit the topic of retention at the following year’s Summit.  The Diversity & Inclusion Pledge & Plan reflects a reaffirmation of the legal profession’s commitment to approaching diversity and inclusion strategically, collaboratively, and with accountability. 

Aleria PBC, a diversity and inclusion firm, hosted the plenary workshop of the Summit. The company’s co-founders, Paolo Gaudiano and Lisa Magill, presented an interactive workshop, which focused on the organizational dynamics that create and hinder diversity and inclusion efforts. Aleria used Zoom polls to better understand the diversity of the attendees and their interactions and diverse experiences in their organizations. Aleria also utilized a simulation to show the effects of discriminatory policies on the retention of diverse employees. The second half of their workshop analyzed personal and organizational environment data provided anonymously by attendees. After, the presenters showed the experiences of the attendees and their interactions with other colleagues in their organizations, highlighting positive experiences and some instances of discrimination. Aleria’s key message was that even with programs and initiatives focused on diversity and inclusion, changing the organizational environment and practices was key to retaining diverse attorneys.  

The afternoon keynote presentation featured Attorney Sharon Jones of Jones Diversity Inc. and was moderated by Attorney Sandra Yamate of the Institute for Inclusion in the Legal Profession. The keynote address focused on forming and fostering positive mentor-mentee relations in law firms, challenging both mentors and mentees to take certain action steps to better understand each other and thrive in the organization. The facilitators participated in a candid dialogue sharing personal experiences and suggesting possible courses of action to the attendees.  

Thank you to the presenters and Diversity & Inclusion Summit Committee members for organizing an interactive and engaging event and to all of our sponsors, including platinum sponsor Kronholm Insurance Services, gold sponsor Wiggin and Dana, and silvers sponsors Hinkley Allen and Pullman and Comley, for their support.